I knew what I was getting into when I decided to go out with a married man.
He was a man who had married his first wife because they were childhood sweethearts; unfortunately, he furthered his education and she didn’t. So she was kind of way behind educationally when he finished his studies, came back from London and married her because he had promised to when he returned.
Now, let me take you back a little while. This same man was the young man I met when I was also schooling in London back in the day; we were introduced by a mutual friend who was Ghanaian and also a student like us. Though he was a lot older than me, with an almost an 8 years difference yet I dated him. He was quite a charmer then, very determined about things; he told me then that he had someone waiting for him back home in Nigeria, someone he had promised to get married to when he returned.
It was a good thing, at that time, I wasn’t prepared to settle down; I had only begun my studies and intended to finish my masters before talking of marriage. My father also intended that. So I knew nothing was going to come out of our relationship back then; we dated and parted as friends…
He left London for Lagos and for many years, I didn’t hear anything about him.
What would I need it for?
After school and work, I got married to another young chap in the UK, a man from Kenya, much to my father’s annoyance! We had two beautiful children, a boy and a girl. After a few years, my husband wanted to move back to his country but I wasn’t having none of that. The marriage didn’t last and we parted. It was only a few years later that I too began to think of relocating back to Nigeria. I had done a few interviews with agents sent to the UK and I was given a position to work with a multinational in Lagos, so I moved my kids and we came back to Nigeria, that was in the early 90s. My kids were still babies, just two and four at that time.
I was paid like an expatriate; I got a good house, nice garden, neighbourhood school for my children.
But a woman needs love.
I didn’t want to get into any affairs with anyone I would later regret because of my position and of course my children’s. And what with relatives telling me, I had to ‘conduct’ myself, like I was some idiot!
I loved my job but a woman needs love and I wanted to be loved right back. If I were a man, having a string of affairs would be normal…but I had to ‘conduct’ myself, so relationships were…tougher to get into.
Meaning I had a few mishaps in love before I met my husband.
Now, to how I met my him again during one of those festive seasons when my company hosted a few clients to our end of year party. It was more like a ‘thank you’ occasion for our high net worth clients. It was held at one of the five star hotels on the island. I was the company’s secretary. Anyway, that’s how I met him again. The young man I had dated years back; was no longer a young man of course; he was now a chief in fact and had several companies to his name.
I had no doubt he would be a successful man when he was returning to Nigeria more than 27 years back. He was now accomplished and of course married with 4 girls.
When we were introduced again, I said to him, “So you are now a chief?”
He was shocked to see I was the one; he told me had had never stopped thinking about me, said he thought I was still abroad. We sat down and talked throughout the event and of course exchanged cards.
I was no longer the young and naïve girl of those years, I was one of the top executives in my company and was also accomplished in my rights and a woman who needed love.
He was married like I said and very unhappy too. His wife and refused to go back to school stating she was too old to get any form of education; so as he rose in the corporate world, he couldn’t carry her along, she didn’t fit anymore! It’s a sad one.
That was his excuse for engaging in several extra marital affairs in which he had two more daughters from different women outside his marriage.
His wife of course had completely given up on him and devoted her time and energy to their children, instead. Who could blame her?
“She stopped fighting for me,” he told me.
But I didn’t pity him, that would be juvenile, wouldn’t it?
I’m also woman, I didn’t get carried away by this.
Instead, I told him he lacked companionship in his marriage because he didn’t bring up his wife alongside as he grew, so she basically had no idea of his life outside the home and while he was building his businesses, she had nothing to contribute and so had no share in his highs and lows. I asked him to give her shares in his company and explain what these meant. I also ensured he gave her a project to manage; his farm…turned out, the woman was born a farmer, she did so great!
But enough of all that; I didn’t need his money…yeah, I agree more is always welcome. I also didn’t necessarily need his name, I had that, I just wanted…you know, love. Someone to care for me.
That was how we began an affair, not that I did anything to stop it; I eventually came to find that I loved him and so when he proposed marriage, I agreed to be wife number two, only I would live outside in a different home, far from his first family.
Why did I agree? Oh what a question!
A woman needs love, I told you; more so, in the few years we dated, I had helped him secure a few business deals he had been chasing for years. So he was able to get his wife several ventures she’d been asking him for and he was able to send her on several holidays abroad. As for his children outside, some of the businesses we secured together ensured they could go school abroad. So I am not your regular ‘trophy’ wife, oh no!
Why am I describing myself as such?
I make fun of myself a lot. I had heard within certain circles that that’s the name I have been given…so I’m owning it and adding my bit to it!
Anyway, we got married and it was great; now he could showoff a wife at his business dinners, so I guess I became a ‘trophy’ wife…but I became a business partner as well! I had quit my job to go work for my husband!
We had a truly great time together until I got pregnant at 45!
I almost lost my mind but my husband was happy; especially when he was told I was expecting a baby boy. I was excited for him. At this time.
Now, news of my marriage to chief, naturally didn’t go well at the home front. I can’t blame the woman, like I said, I am a woman, too. But she acted nice towards me and that was what made me wary of her. A woman should be angry, refuse to speak to you, then you know you are at the war front but my husband’s wife was too kind, too good and I was on guard.
I usually do not succumb to all these native things; ‘drink this concoction, rub that balm, don’t go out at so and so time…’
Ok, so my husband’s wife came to meet me at my house with a bowl of pounded yam and egusi, while I was still pregnant, she said it’s the tradition from my husband ‘s people and the senior wife must be the one to prepare it for the junior wife…
I was skeptical.
Oh before then, she would call to thank me for something our husband told her came through me. I didn’t like that. I warned chief to stop it but he wouldn’t listen. In his mind, we should be friendly towards one another. I just thought being civil was enough.
Anyway, on the day of the egusi soup, I called my husband, he was in London then, he said I shouldn’t worry, I should go ahead and eat it.
I didn’t want to but my husband is a chief, he believed in the tradition of his people. And so I ate it. The surprising thing is my husband’s wife ate with me, so I was as at ease and felt kind of guilty.
But I shouldn’t have… I lost my baby a week later!
You tell me what happened if it isn’t that woman!
My baby was still born, he was 36 weeks; a healthy fetus, we had been monitoring it for weeks since I learned I was pregnant. I ate some food and it died.
I stopped feeling it move exactly one week after that meal. I went to the doctor, after several tests, they told me my baby was gone.
I refused to have it evacuated because I just didn’t believe it was dead…soon after a few days…I began to smell of the rot from inside of me. I was told I could be poisoned by it and I could die.
I have known pain but not like the loss of that baby. My husband flew back in and was at the hospital with me. He wept like a baby. I wept with him; he was already in his late 50s then and a baby boy was perhaps what he most longed for…
I knew I would never try to have babies again, ever! I was done!
My husband’s wife didn’t even visit me at the hospital…for someone who always called to tell me one thing or another about our businesses, she never spoke to me nor consoled me over my loss.
Since then, we have carefully avoided each other…. it’s more than 12 years now…our husband passed on a few years ago.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)